Belhaven owner Greene King in strong spirits

Rooney Anand, the boss of Greene King, the pubs group that owns Dunbar's historic Belhaven Brewery, has cheered a market-beating performance as the firm prepares to serve a million festive meals

CEO Rooney Anand recently announced plans to step down next year. Picture: Adam Smyth
CEO Rooney Anand recently announced plans to step down next year. Picture: Adam Smyth

Interim results for the 24 weeks to 14 October revealed a near-2 per cent rise in group revenue to just over £1 billion. Pub company like-for-like sales were up 2.7 per cent, ahead of a market increase of 1.1 per cent over the period.

The group, which acquired Belhaven in 2005 and is gearing up to celebrate the brewery’s 300th anniversary next year, posted a 0.2 per cent rise in adjusted profit before tax, at £128.2 million. The interim shareholder dividend was maintained at 8.8p.

Anand, who recently announced plans to step down next year after serving a 14-year term at the helm of the firm, said the group was performing well both north and south of the Border.

“I think it is a very pleasing result,” he told The Scotsman. “We have been encouraged by the performance in Scotland and now plan to capitalise on the 300th anniversary of Belhaven.

“It has been a great honour and privilege to lead the business. We are blessed with having some fantastic people.”

Anand plans to step down at the end of the group’s financial year, on 30 April. An announcement on a successor as chief executive is expected early in the new year.

Like other businesses, the company hinted at stockpiling plans as it said it was preparing for the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit.

“We are working with each of our key suppliers and supply chain partners and assessing their Brexit readiness plans,” added Anand. “Once we know what it is we are dealing with we will take concrete steps to make sure we are as prepared as we can be.”

The group said Christmas bookings were well ahead of last year, with the chief executive noting that his staff were expecting to serve about one million festive meals.

Revenue in Greene King’s brewing and brands business was up 7.5 per cent, thanks to the World Cup-related beer sales boom.

Anand also highlighted a favourable reception to some of the firm’s latest craft beer brands, such as Belhaven’s award-winning Twisted Grapefruit IPA and its Twisted Mango variety. “We have been encouraging some of our brewers to be a bit adventurous,” he added.

Alasdair Ronald, senior investment manager at wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin Scotland, said: “Although it is outperforming the wider sector, Greene King’s results are relatively flat – revenue is up 1.9 per cent and adjusted profit before tax has risen just 0.2 per cent.

“There will, nevertheless, be relief that the dividend was maintained after suggestions it could be cut.”

Julie Palmer, a partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “With chief executive Rooney Anand announcing he will leave the firm in 2019 after 14 years leading the business, a smooth transition to a new leader will be crucial.”

She added: “If Greene King can continue to manage its margins and maintain decent sales, then investors will certainly be getting the rounds in when the full-year results are announced.”